Why speed pedelecs cause frustration in other cyclists
The fast electric bicycle, the speed pedelec, is under fire. Some talk about ‘the new cycling terrorist’; others call them ‘the BMW of the bicycle path’. But why does this fast e-bike arouse so much irritation? Because the speed of this type of bike is causing frustrations in other cyclists.
Frustrated car driver
But who is the speed pedelec user really? According to a cycling commuter, it’s no real cyclist but a frustrated car driver that is forced to use a bike because of traffic jams. It often is somebody who turned in his leased BMW, Audi or whatever brand for a leased Riese&Muller or Strömer. And he usually races on the bicycle path with the same arrogance as he used to drive his car at the Antwerp ring road.
‘The BMW of the bicycle path’ is causing frustrations, although the majority of users stick to the rules. But our bicycle infrastructure is not adapted to its different types of users. “School children, seniors, fathers with their small children, and speed pedelecs all have to use the same – usually narrow – bicycle paths, all at different speeds,” explains traffic psychologist Ludo Kluppels. “There already existed some tension between car drivers and cyclists, but now there has grown a conflict among cyclists themselves.”
Cities and municipalities don’t know how to welcome those new and fast vehicles in a safe way. “They’re a relatively new phenomenon and we’re not used to them yet,” says Wies Callens of the Cyclist Union (Fietsersbond). “Other road users often have difficulties to estimate their speed, which causes scary moments or uncertain situations, followed by frustration.”
But there are more explanations for the growing frustration than bicycle infrastructure alone. According to traffic psychologist Gerard Tertoolen, sometimes it’s just out of jealousy. Real bicycle fanatics look down on speed pedelecs considering them ‘too easy’. They immediately associate the drivers with notions like ‘lazy’, even if they don’t know how many kilometers the speed pedelec rider has to cover to arrive at work.
And, last but not least, the name of the fast e-bike, the speed pedelec, doesn’t do any good for its reputation either. “Studies show that it normally doesn’t reach the expected speed of 45 km/hour,” the Bicycle Union explains. “Usually it’s between 30 and 35 km/hour.”
To ban the speed pedelec from bicycle paths is not an option either, the Union thinks. “It would be like banning a Porsche from a 30-km/hour zone just because it can reach a speed of 230 km/hour.” In the meantime, the Union suggests, let’s take the time to get used to those vehicles, and let’s behave courteously.”